Since 1985, Herwig Leirs (HL, PhD Antwerp 1992) has been involved in biology, (applied) ecology, zoonosis epidemiology and integrated pest management research of rodents. His research has a strong, though non-exclusive, focus on Africa (mostly Tanzania, DR Congo, Ethiopia). His main current interest is in the transmission ecology of infections that are carried by small mammals in the wild and how the dynamics of the host population affect the risk for outbreaks and host jumps to humans.
Until 1996, HL worked as a researcher at the UAntwerpen. In 1996, he was appointed Head of the Mammal Department at the Danish Pest Infestation Laboratory. He was also an external professor at the University of Copenhagen LIFE Faculty. Since 1999, he combined this with a part-time lecturer position at the UAntwerpen, and returned there as a professor in 2001, full professor since 2008 (while still maintaining a formal link to DPIL until 2012). He teaches several courses in the fields of Zoology, Population Ecology and Ecology of Infections.
HL has published one monograph, one edited book, one congress proceedings and over 200 papers on (applied) rodent biology and ecology of infections in international scientific journals or refereed books (Google Scholar 8004 citations, h-index 46,). He has participated in many international meetings (over 300 lectures or posters), several times as convenor of symposia, and he has been chairman of two international conferences on rodent biology and member of the scientific or organising committee for several others. He has supervised a number of Ph.D.-students (25 completed, 10 ongoing). He is/was Associate or Handling Editor of four scientific journals and acts regularly as a referee for others.
HL is co-ordinator, participant or advisor for several research projects focusing on ecology, biodiversity, zoonosis epidemiology and pest control of rodents, many of them with international funding. He attracted research funding over 10M€. He acted as a WHO rodent-expert at several instances, among others during the Ebola/Marburg virus outbreaks in Central Africa. He has been an expert or reviewer for several international organisations. He built an important network of scientists in Africa and Europe studying the ecology and management of rodents as pests in agriculture and public health and is an advisor for several international projects on rodent-related issues (e.g. STOPRAT, ECORODMAN, African Center of Excellence,…). Recently he was awarded a “Lifetime Recognition of Excellence” at the Joint Meeting of the 6th International Conference of Rodent Biology and Management and 16th Rodens et Spatium, in Potsdam, Germany, 3-7 September 2018.
HL combined his scientific activities with taking up management positions in and outside the university. From 2009-2015, he was Dean of the Faculty of Sciences at the UAntwerpen. Since November 2016, he is chairman of the UAntwerpen Board of Governors. He is also chairman of the Board of the ngo APOPO, member of the Board of Trustees at the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (the Zoo) and vice-chairman of the Board of Governors at the Institute of Tropical Medicine (Antwerp). He is vice-chairman of the Bureau University Development Cooperation of the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR-UOS), member if the Scientific Advisory Board of the Flemish Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO) and the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Berlin, Germany) and chaired the expert panel Bio3 for the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO) .